Have I ever told you that I live in a somewhat provincial community?
Don’t get me wrong, I love it. It’s a very old, established part of town with towering trees, winding roads, nooks and crannies, retired couples, millennial upstarts, mom and pop shops and while it’s an open community with no gates to be found, there’s still a certain exclusionary way of doing things here. The gates are psychological and virtual. More on that in a moment.
I’m smiling right now because one of the great benefits of getting older is that you can instantly recognize a charade when you see one. Cow dung is often invisible, but it’s in the midst. You can smell it. You can feel something awry in the air that sweeps through the neighborhood.
Anyway, even though this community borders less desirable climes, it’s literally like an oasis in the heart of the city. Neighborhoods like this aren’t easy to find, but there are indeed thousands of them all across America.
While everyone else in my family owns homes in suburban subdivisions, I choose to live what I believe is a more-grounded, urban life. I no longer want that 30-minute-to-an-hour commute home to a branded community that’s a Knot’s Landing, cookie-cutter nightmare where some of the kids of corporate executives do heroin while mom and dad are carousing the country club … or whatever.
Yet, let me also say that if you live in a subdivision, good for you. We all have choices. Let’s hear it for choices.
As you well know, many of these communities are gated. People want to feel safe at home. Who doesn’t? They also want their property values to rise. Who doesn’t? They also want to keep a certain kind of people OUT. Who …… doesn’t?
Whenever I drive by a gated community, I always wonder … “Wouldn’t it be GREAT if we could figure out a way to lock people inside their gated communities so that they’d never have to fear for their safety and we’d never have to worry about them … ever again?”
I mean, they’d be TOTALLY SAFE, away from the rest of us and we’d never bother them. Wouldn’t that be perfect?
This is all leading me to something that I noticed about my own community. When I first moved here some time ago, one of my neighbors told me that I should look into my neighborhood’s online community.
Upon hearing this, I literally got a chill up and down my spine. Something just didn’t feel right. I felt like I was being set up to be punked. I tried to ignore it. I didn’t want my image of my new community to be shattered. Well …
FAST FORWARD TO LAST NIGHT
After having put it off for many months, last night, I finally caved in to the temptation and of course, my fears were instantly confirmed. Oh yes, my community does indeed have a social media page, but … it’s a closed community.
I knew it. I knew it. I knew it.
I’m living in the very kind of community I’ve tried to avoid. I live in a …
… GATED COMMUNITY.
It’s not actually gated, but it’s virtually and psychologically gated.
Look … I get it. There’s great value in being able to communicate with your neighbors online. Neighborhood security is important and simply being able to keep in touch with people while you're hundreds or even thousands of miles away is very cool.
But here’s the rub. You know as well as I do that gated communities – whether they’re actual or virtual – are ultimately about keeping certain kinds of people OUT. That’s simply how it works. People can deny it all day long, but we know the deal.
I just think that gated communities are like exclusive clubs where, “Our Kind of People” gather and gossip and become these incestuous creatures who feed off of one another and constantly view “outsiders” with suspicion.
God bless you all, but count me OUT. No thank you. This is precisely why I didn’t pledge a fraternity back in college. It just seems creepy to me … all of that exclusive insularity. It makes me want to throw up.
And do you know what really gets me? The fact that we have gated communities … online. In a way, these are worse than actual gated communities because they're stealth. With physically-gated communities, you actually SEE the gates surrounding the community. However, with online communities, you don't know about them unless you belong to that secret community. This way of operating simply enables all sorts of discrimination and keeps it "beneath the radar."
Isn’t the whole point of the internet to be able to travel to Paris while sitting alone in your den in Santa Fe? Isn’t the whole point of the internet to become “pen pals,” if you will, with people who you’ll probably never cross paths with in this lifetime?
Isn’t the whole point of being online to expand your world and boost your possibilities? There’s a whole WORLD out there. Don’t you want to see it? Don’t you want to BECOME one with your grand destiny while you still have time?
We’re actually taking this miraculous, forward-thinking technology and dumbing it down to the level of our worst fears and prejudices about others. Don’t get me wrong, self-protection is absolutely necessary, but at what cost? When we lock ourselves away, we lock out the bad … as well as the good that can help us grow and perhaps even find true fulfillment.
We’re living during a time of spectacular technological advances. Yet every single time human beings come up with new and fantastic technology, it’s always neutralized by the enemy of technology …
Look … what I’m saying here is that I find it SO hypocritical that we criticize Arabs and Israelis for all of the conflict in the Middle East and yet here we are … living in gated communities … actual and virtual. Apart from the gunfire and bombings, there’s not much difference between what we do and what they do in the Middle East.
We wonder why there’s so much conflict in the world and yet we actually (and virtually) go out of our way to separate ourselves from other people. It's takes more energy to do that than to simply welcome someone. Nobody wants obnoxious or troublesome neighbors, but I just think we all need to start behaving like responsible adults … and not children who grab their toys in the sandbox and flee when other kids show up.
Everyone is living in these silos that we call gated communities and they’re wondering why they can’t get along with other people who aren’t like them. The problem is … you don’t WANT to get along with them. You really don’t want them to exist. Be truthful. You don’t want anything to do with them. You know it’s true. Who are you kidding? Or is it … Whom are you kidding?
Maybe the problem is not THEM. Maybe the problem is … YOU.
We all need to think about this. Maybe the problem is … ME and the choices that I’VE made. Could I actually be the SOURCE of the problem? What am I doing wrong? I try to ask myself this question frequently.
At the end of the day, we should always celebrate the fact that we live in a society where we have choices. We have the freedom to choose things. Choices rock.
But it just seems to me that this whole, “gated community” way of thinking and living is doing much more harm than we realize. You can smell it. You can feel it in the air that sweeps through the neighborhood. Self-protection is wise, but we can take that to unhealthy extremes. There’s a price to be paid for everything.
We can live in gated communities and build silos until the end of time, but the fact remains that despite that, life continues to happen all around us. Try as we do … there’s no escaping real life.
Not even in a gated community … actual or virtual.